Walking through the hallways at Bettendorf High School, senior Olivia Miles said she heard sniffling, but not much else.
“You could hear a pin drop,” said Miles, who went home after her second class Wednesday. “It was the quietest I’ve ever heard the hallways in my four years there.”
On Thursday, Miles stayed home from school as she and the Bettendorf community mourned the loss of their classmate, teammate, student and son, Jonathan “Jonno” Russell.
Russell, 18, died Wednesday night at University Hospitals, Iowa City, from injuries sustained in a car crash early Sunday in Pleasant Valley, police said. He was the son of Jan and Joel Russell, of Bettendorf.
Miles, who considered Russell to be her best friend, described him as an adventurous and loving guy.
“No matter what time of day, whatever the weather was, Jonno was the type of guy who had to be out doing something with his friends,” Miles said. “You could always count on him to do something fun.”
Russell was driving his 2003 Hyundai Tiburon west in the 25000 block of Valley Drive at 12:43 a.m. Sunday when he came upon a curve, said Scott County Sheriff's Deputy Sean Thompson, the department’s accident investigator.
The car began to slide sideways, then went into a shallow grassy ditch and struck a telephone pole and two trees. Russell was not wearing a seat belt, according to Thompson.
Russell was extricated from the car by LeClaire Fire Department personnel and flown by MedForce air ambulance to Iowa City.
A container of alcohol was found in the car, Sheriff’s Maj. Tom Gibbs said Thursday. He said deputies are awaiting a toxicology report to determine whether Russell, who was two weeks away from graduating, had been drinking before the crash.
Thompson declined to comment Thursday on where the alcohol was found or whether it was open, citing the ongoing investigation.
“The biggest factor was that he was unrestrained,” Gibbs said. “Regardless of whether there was alcohol involved, had he been wearing his seat belt, he probably would have survived.”
You have free articles remaining.
Outside of the classroom, the honor roll student competed for the Bulldogs on the soccer field up until his senior year.
This year, Russell decided to go out for the wrestling team for the first time, said Miles, who added she watched him get his first pin at the junior varsity level.
“He was always down for anything,” she added. “That’s just who he was.”
According to friends, Russell had planned to attend the University of Iowa in the fall, where he wanted to live with his older brother.
Senior Ryan Hillebrand also considered Russell his best friend.
Whether spending time together in Cancun, Mexico, over spring break or playing the FIFA soccer video game against each other, Hillebrand said he looked up to Russell.
“He was the kid you looked up to and the kid you wanted to be around,” said Hillebrand, who added that he saw his friend hours before the accident Saturday night during a break from work.
“I told him I’d see him after work, but I never did,” said Hillebrand, who hasn’t been in school this week. “I don’t know if I can go back. I don’t know if I can walk without him.”
On Wednesday, he visited Russell at the hospital with a group of friends.
The senior hugged his friend’s mother, Jan, as he saw Russell breathing with the aid of a ventilator.
“I held his hand,” Hillebrand said through tears. “It was still warm, and I told him I loved him. I told him that everybody loved him.”